“I Am With You Heart and Soul”

American Legion parade-557706-original
American Legion Parade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Do all that you have in mind,” [Jonathan’s] armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” 1 Samuel 14:7 (NIV)

While a freshman in college, my roommate Kirk and I were asked to do patriotic readings at the local Veteran’s Day festitivities at the city center. We were asked to meet at the local American Legion Hall and ride the bus with the veterans to the parade route. We walked in the parade and then did our readings as part of a long agenda of civic dignitaries.

Other than my uncle who was a ship’s cook in the Korean War, my family does not have much of a history of military service. It was a strange experience for me to enter the American Legion Hall filled with old men in their black jackets and legion caps which detailed where they served. I keenly remember the man in the white cap, signifying he had served at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. It was 10:00 a.m. and our hosts shoved a fist full of free drink tickets into our hands. Kirk and I were under the legal drinking age and neither of us were drinkers so we gave our tickets away. It struck me, however, that many of these men were not only drinking when they were our age but were dodging bullets in Europe and the South Pacific.

I will admit that my Christian good boy sensibilities were taken aback at first with all of the early morning drinking. But, I sat and observed and struck up conversations with many of the Legion members. I watched these men swapping stories. I watched them laugh together. At different times I heard songs rising up from different places in the hall as they sang memories from marching and battle. It was the first time I’d ever witnessed that kind of deep comaraderie among men.

Soon we were on the bus headed to the parade. The bus seats were positioned so that Kirk and I were facing the back of the bus and staring at the two Legion members in the seat behind us. The older gentleman before me struck up a conversation. When I asked about where he served, he began to talk about being in World War II. It began as a cheerful retelling of where he was stationed and then quickly transitioned into some of the conflicts he survived. I watched as his eyes glassed over and and his brain receded into deep, abiding memories. Within moments he was staring silently out the bus window lost somewhere on the battlefield of his distant past. Tears began to flow down from his eyes and across his cheeks. He made no attempt to wipe them away and I made no attempt to disturb his thoughts. I simply watched until finally he looked back at me.

“Don’t ever get into another war,” he said in a soft whisper. He said no more.

As I read the response of Jonathan’s armor bearer in this morning’s chapter, I thought of that cold Veteran’s Day morning twenty-five years ago. “I am with you heart and soul,” the man said to his comrade in arms. I observed and experienced the heart and soul connection of men who had shared the experience of battle in that American Legion hall. I have not served in the military, nor have I had the experience of battle. The only conflicts I have experienced are spiritual and domestic. I will not pretend to equate or confuse the two.

I have, however, experienced the comaradarie of men who have shared my journey, my struggles, my life wounds, as well as my life’s victories. I have men in my life whom I know, if I asked them to follow me into difficult circumstance, would respond “I am with you heart and soul.” There are men whom I have not regularly spoken with in years who I could call in the middle of the night in need. Today, I am grateful for each one of them as I picture their faces and offer a silent prayer of thanks for each by name.

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